Great. Just what I needed. Duane was quite possibly the most obnoxious immortal I'd ever met. He kept his blond hair shaved to a close buzz, and as usual, he demonstrated terrible taste in both fashion and deodorant.
"Go away, Duane. I have nothing to say to you."
"Oh come on," he crooned, his hand snaking out to hold the door as I tried to open it. "Even you can't play coy this time. Look at you. You're positively glowing. Good hunting, eh?"
I scowled at the reference to Martin's life energy, knowing it must be wreathing me. Obstinately, I tried to pry my door open against Duane's hold. No luck.
"He'll be out for days, from the looks of it," the vampire added, peering at me closely. "Still, I imagine whoever he was enjoyed the ride - both on you and to hell." He gave me a lazy smile, just barely revealing his pointed teeth. "He must have been someone pretty good for you to look as hot as you do now. What happened? I thought you only f**ked the scum of the earth. The real ass**les."
"Change of policy. I didn't want to give you false hope."
He shook his head appreciatively. "Oh Georgina, you never disappoint - you and your witticisms. But then, I've always found whores know how to make good use of their mouths, on or off the job."
"Let go," I snapped, tugging harder at the door.
"Why the hurry? I have a right to know what you and the imp were doing over here. The Eastside is my turf."
"We don't have to abide by your 'turf rules, and you know it."
"Still, common courtesy dictates when you're in the neighborhood - literally, in this case - you at least say hello. Besides, how come we never hang out? You owe me some quality time. You spend enough time with those other losers."
The losers he referred to were my friends and the only decent vampires I'd ever met. Most vampires - like Duane - were arrogant, devoid of social skills, and obsessed with territoriality. Not unlike a lot of mortal men I'd met.
"If you don't let me go, you're going to learn a whole new definition of 'common courtesy.'"
Okay, it was a stupid, faux action-movie line, but it was the best I could come up with on the spot. I made my voice sound as menacing as possible, but it was pure bravado, and he knew it. Succubi were gifted with charisma and shape-shifting; vampires had super strength and speed. What this meant was that one of us mingled better at parties, and the other could break a man's wrist with a handshake.
"Are you actually threatening me?" He ran a playful hand along my cheek, making the hairs on my neck stand on end - in a bad way. I squirmed. "That's adorable. And kind of arousing. I actually think I'd like to see you on the offensive. Maybe if you'd just behave like a good girl - ow !You little bitch!"
With both of his hands occupied, I had seized my window of opportunity. A quick burst of shape-shifting, and sharp, three-inch claws appeared on my right hand. I swiped them across his cheek. His superior reflexes didn't let me get very far with the gesture, but I did draw blood before he gripped my wrist and slammed it against the car.
"What's the matter? Not offensive enough for you?" I managed through my pain. More bad movie lines.
"Cute, Georgina. Very cute. We'll see how cute you are by the time I - "
Headlights glimmered in the night as a car turned the corner on the next block and headed toward us. In that split second, I could see the indecision on Duane's face. Our t?te-?-t?te would undoubtedly be noticed by the driver. While Duane could easily kill an intervening mortal - hell, it was what he did for a living - having the kill linked to his harassment of me would not look good to our superiors. Even an ass**le like Duane would think twice before stirring up that kind of paperwork.
"We aren't finished," he hissed, releasing my wrist.
"Oh, I think we are." I could feel braver now that salvation was on the way. "The next time you come near me's going to be the last."
"I'm quaking in terror," he simpered. His eyes gleamed once in the darkness, and then he was gone, moving off into the night just as the car drove past. Thank God for whatever liaison or ice cream run had pulled that driver out tonight.
Not wasting any more time, I got into my car and drove off, anxious to be back in the city. I tried to ignore the shaking of my hands on the wheel, but the truth of the matter was, Duane terrified me. I had told him off plenty of times in the presence of my immortal friends, but taking him on alone on a dark street was an entirely different matter, especially since all my threats had been empty ones.
I actually abhorred violence in all its forms. I suppose this came from living through periods of history fraught with levels of cruelty and brutality no one in the modern world could even comprehend. People like to say we live in violent times now, but they have no idea. Sure, there had been a certain satisfaction centuries ago in seeing a ra**st castrated swiftly and promptly for his crimes, without endless courtroom drama or an early release for "good behavior." Unfortunately, those who deal in revenge and vigilantism rarely know where to draw the line, so I'd take the bureaucracy of the modern judicial system any day.
Thinking back to how I'd presumed the fortuitous driver was on an ice cream run, I decided a little dessert would do me some good too. Once I was safely back in Seattle, I stopped in a 24-hour grocery store, discovering some marketing mastermind had created tiramisu-flavored ice cream. Tiramisu and ice cream. The ingenuity of mortals never failed to amaze me.
As I was about to pay, I passed a display of flowers. They were cheap and a little tattered, but I watched as a young man came in and nervously scanned them over. At last he selected some autumn-colored mums and carried them off. My eyes followed him wistfully, half-jealous of whatever girl would be getting those.
As Duane had noted, I usually fed off losers, guys I didn't have to feel guilty about hurting or rendering unconscious for a few days. Those kind did not send flowers and usually avoided most romantic gestures altogether. As for the guys who did send flowers, well, I avoided them. For their own good. That was out of character for a succubus, but I was too jaded to care about propriety anymore.
Feeling sad and lonely, I picked up a bouquet of red carnations for myself and paid for it and the ice cream.
When I arrived home, my phone was ringing. Setting down my goods, I glanced at the Caller-ID. Caller unknown.
"My lord and master," I answered. "What a perfect ending to a perfect night."
"Save your quips, Georgie. Why were you f**king with Duane?"
"Jerome, I - what?"
"He just called. Said you were unduly hassling him."
"Hassling? Him?" Outrage surged inside me. "He started it! He came up to me and - "
"Did you hit him?"
I sighed. Jerome was the archdemon of the greater Seattle hierarchy of evil, as well as my supervisor. It was his job to manage all of us, make sure we did our duties, and keep us in line. Like any lazy demon, however, he preferred we create as little work for him as possible. His annoyance was almost palpable through the phone line.
"I did sort of hit him. Actually, it was more of a swipe."
"I see. A swipe. And did you threaten him too?"
"Well, yes, I guess, if you want to argue semantics, but Jerome, come on! He's a vampire. I can't touch him. You know that."
The archdemon hesitated, apparently considering the outcome of me going head-to-head with Duane. I must have lost in the hypothetical battle because I heard Jerome exhale a moment later.
"Yes. I suppose. But don't provoke him anymore. I've got enough to work on right now without you children having catfights."
"Since when do you work?" Children indeed.
"Good night, Georgie. Don't tangle with Duane again."
The phone disconnected. Demons weren't big on small talk.
I hung up, feeling highly offended. I couldn't believe Duane had tattled on me and then made me out to be the bad guy. Worse, Jerome seemed to have believed it. At least at first. That probably hurt me most of all because, my slacker-succubus habits aside, I'd always enjoyed a kind of indulgent, teacher's pet role with the archdemon.
Seeking consolation, I carried the ice cream off to my bedroom, shedding my clothes for a loose nightshirt. Aubrey, my cat, stood up from where she'd been sleeping at the foot of my bed and stretched. Solid white save for some black smudges on her forehead, she squinted green eyes at me in greeting.